Knowledgespeak: We are happy to have William Park, CEO of DeepDyve, for our third Knowledgespeak interview at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Please tell us about yourself and your job profile at DeepDyve.
William Park: My background was in the technology world as opposed to the publishing world – that brings a lot of interesting benefits and represents the process of learning about the industry, as I go. As I’m learning, it allows me to challenge certain assumptions or certain beliefs about how things operate in the publishing world, how things operate outside the publishing world, and challenge that conventional thinking.
My role within the company is that of the CEO: essentially making sure things are operating the way we want them to. I also represent the company’s face to the publishing community ... in explaining our vision, and as we work with publishers to make sure that our vision aligns with theirs.
Knowledgespeak: Please share with us any interesting things you have seen so far at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. Have there been one or two things that jumped out at you as interesting or unexpected?
William Park: I’d say not so many things have jumped out just at this moment. But, I can say from what we have seen last year, there is a gradual increase of interest in reaching the end user and then looking for alternative markets to deliver content. I think that’s reflection of the challenging economy, that there is a desire to find new markets. Also, as publishers look at what’s happening on their website, they realize that there are a large number of users who are not identified, and who are visiting the site and leaving the site and not being fully served. So, the questions now rising are: Who are these people? And why are they continuing to come to visit my site in large numbers? What is the best way to serve them? So what I’m seeing at the Frankfurt show really is a high watermark in terms of those types of questions and conversations happening ... and we’re having conversations as to how to serve these people better.
Knowledgespeak: How, according to you, have the needs of information consumers evolved in the recent few years? On a related note, what are the main access problems faced by researchers?
William Park: In terms of the consumer or the end user (let’s think of those as the unaffiliated user), the trend that is happening with these is one that has been taking place in over the last 100 years. And that is, there are a lot more educated end users, consumers and individuals in the world today than were a 100 years ago or even 10 years ago. In the United States, in 1900s, 25% of the population lived on farms and less than 4% had any college degree. If you go forward 50 years, over 10% had graduate degrees. So even in the US there has been a massive increase, and the US population has gone up threefold than those times. Now there is a many more people capable of reading authoritative content, scholarly content. When you then look at the last 20 years, at what is happening in emerging markets such as China and India, China is producing more engineers annually than the US and Europe combined, by threefold. It is generating 600,000 engineering graduates every year. The US is generating 70,000. Europe is generating 100,000 graduates a year. So you have that convergence of many more technically trained professionals and individuals, combined with the internet that allows these users to connect to content that they previously couldn’t in a print or analog form. You have an opportunity, or a challenge, for all of these users that are not affiliated with major institutions or a corporation – they have an access problem. Content is very expensive, and the user interface, i.e. the website, is really designed much more for the institutional researcher than it is for the individual researcher or small business researcher. Consequently there is the experience challenge combined with the budgetary challenge these days.
Knowledgespeak: Can you briefly talk about your online rental service for research data? How, according to you, can this business model change the landscape of STM article purchasing?
William Park: Our users definitely reflect the unaffiliated user as we would assume. About 90% of our users have an email address that is a dot com, etc. as opposed to a dot edu or a dot co. What’s interesting is that DeepDyve is a young company and we’ve done no end user outreach in any material way. We are based in California and yet 70% of visitors to our website are from outside the US. A majority of those countries are not English speaking. I believe China and India are among the top 10 countries visiting from outside the US – this corresponds with some of the demographic trends that we were seeing in the last 10-20 years.
In terms of how this would change STM publishing, I don’t necessarily see the publishers themselves operationally changing in terms of how they produce journal content and book content. It’s more a question of how can we take their existing assets and repurpose them for this new audience, and do this in a way that is going to be responsible. We need to serve this other audience in a way that STM publishers are not going to alienate or undermine their existing core group of users.
Knowledgespeak: Publishers today are increasingly making content available in mobile format. Will eReaders/tablet computers redefine the way content is accessed? What plans does DeepDyve have regarding making content accessible via mobile devices?
William Park: I do believe that the trend towards eReaders or tablet, very loosely, is real. If you go back hundreds of years, the main format in which publishers delivered their product (the content) was print and that had not changed for hundreds of years. And then the new content that emerged was PDF, and that hasn’t changed for tens of years. All of a sudden there are now alternative content formats and that will be a challenge to the publisher because the user’s behaviour is now going to evolve in ways that are much faster than ever before. I believe that the changes will be at a high level – most interesting will be to determine if users will stop printing these documents over time or if it will be less of a mandatory requirement that the document be printable. Increasingly, you are seeing documents being read on iPads and high resolution tablets. It becomes very convenient and even superior, in many cases, to read a document and be able to take notes and to search for notes digitally, as opposed to trying to remember where you wrote something on a margin.
Another thing that will change is cloud based computing. Many users, I think, have a disposition towards wanting to download the PDF and have that PDF on their computer. There are a lot of disadvantages of having it on your computer. You cannot access it from a different location, and you can lose it (if your computer has a malfunction or crashes) ... cloud based computing makes lot more sense. So, that will be another change where people will be able to access the document from the cloud, as opposed to from their desktop.
Knowledgespeak: Permanent collections of well-established journals are constantly under the pressure of institutional budget cuts. How can DeepDyve's content discovery and rental tools help publishers to respond to both opportunities and threats to premium revenues?
William Park: I think what we represent for publishers is a way to probably mitigate some of that risk of library budgets declining by creating a new market and a new channel to reach new audiences. That’s number one. Number two perhaps is: as the techniques of publishers apply towards varying and segmenting their products – to work with DeepDyve to serve our user base, they’re potentially being applied to how they think about serving their user base. In other words, perhaps there is a lot of talk about patron driven access and maybe there are ways to segment even institutional subscription bills.
Knowledgespeak: The last question that we have for you today is about Social Networking. Social Networking is becoming a mainstream component of scientific research. How does DeepDyve approach or utilize the Web 2.0/social networking phenomenon?
William Park: Today, we don’t do much in this arena. But, we are looking at that very carefully. Our belief is that ‘social networking’ is a very big term, and how it’s being applied today – mostly with respect to Facebook, which has 500 million users – is from a consumer and social perspective, and the relationships in the profile will dictate all the conversations. I believe that as it relates to professionals, scholarly works and research, it’s really information that is the connective issue. As a researcher, I would want to start with finding information and from there drive the relationships with other authorities, other researchers, and other people within that sort of network. So, as I look at it, it’s the information that becomes a hub, as opposed to the individual users profile being the hub. From there, there’s going to be a need for learning of social tools that result in information organization, collaboration, and things of that sort. I see a role for Twitter-type services evolving as well. Not so much work is replacing impact factor ... and I don’t see impact factor going away any time soon. But, Twitter and even online article metrics really do reflect authority, much in the same way as impact factor is an authority score card. And if you’re a prominent researcher that has lots of followers, and if you’re anybody that has lots of followers – this is an indication of your authority in whatever subject you have been tweeting about. So, there is an opportunity for the publishers to look at these evolving models, think of them not as what they do today and their current incarnation, but how could they evolve. I do believe that tweeting will be applied in professional circumstances. You will see professionals tweeting about their research and what they are discovering, and people want to know what that is all about.